Signing Legal Documents During the Pandemic

By Kimberly H. Whitley

As we all know, everyday tasks have become more difficult during the Coronavirus Pandemi The Courts and the legislature of North Carolina have made temporary and emergency changes to the laws to allow for the legal process to move forward and for necessary documents to be signed.

Estate and Court Filings. Until August 1, 2020, notarization is waived for a document which is required to be filed with a court. Instead, an affirmation may be signed to replace the notary. To implement this process, the individual signs the document. Underneath the signature, the following statement is added:

“I affirm, under the penalties for perjury, that the foregoing representations are true.”

This statement is then dated and signed. This rule applies only to court filings and not to documents that are required to be recorded or to a Last Will & Testament.

Notarization Changes. For non-court filings that require a notary (including all recorded documents, Last Wills & Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills) the notarization may be conducted via video conference until 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 2020. To comply with the new law, the following criteria must be met:

  • A notary must witness the principal via video actually signing the appropriate documents.
  • During the signature process, the principal must verbally state which documents are being executed.
  • Both the notary and the principal must be located within the State of North Carolina, and the principal must verify the county where he or she is located.
  • The acknowledgement form on the executed document must confirm these locations and reference the emergency video notarization requirements contained in North Carolina General Statute § 10B-25.
  • Video conferences must be live and not recorded, but the video conference must be capable of recording or taking screen shots
  • The notary must enter emergency video notarizations in a notary journal, which shall be retained for at least ten years. It may be maintained in electronic form. The legislation itself contains a list of information about what must be included in the journal.
  • The principal must send an electronic copy of the signature as well as mail a hard copy to the notary for notarization.
  • Witnessing may also be conducted via video conference.

Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills generally require two witnesses plus a notary. During this time, the witness requirement is suspended, but the notary requirement is still in effect. A special statement must be added by the notary.

The enactment of these rules will make it easier for all of us to move forward with legal work and important planning items.